Rwanda looks at 2017 as year of ICT growth

Saturday January 7 2017

Drones are being used to transport blood in a pilot project launched in Rwanda. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

Drones are being used to transport blood in a pilot project launched in Rwanda. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA  

By Jean-Pierre Afadhali

The new year is expected to bring new innovation and development in various areas of ICT sector, including e-commerce, cashless economy, FinTech, health care, telecom, techpreneurship, Internet penetration, among others.

In the second half of last year, Jumo, a South African tech firm revealed its interest in local market to tap into the growing use of mobile money.

The company partners with telcos and banks in several African markets to offer micro-loans to mobile money users, a digital financial service that is needed mainly by many unbanked people, low income segment of telcos subscribers and others for its convenience.

The company had said it is working to meet the license requirements by the end of 2016; but late last year Russell Jarvis, director of communications at Jumo said, he would make a major announcement on their expansion in February.

Fintech has also attracted a Kenyan lender, Commercial Bank of Africa that partnered with MTN to offer mini-credits to subscribers in April 2017, following its launch in Uganda in August last year.

The entry of the two firms in mobile finance could be good news for subscribers as they would have many options.

In the health sector, drones are being used to transport blood in a pilot project launched late last year. Zipline, an American company using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to transport blood packages to hospitals in the west and southern parts of the country will expand its services to more health facilities from the current 21.

The Californian-based start-up has recently expanded into Tanzania; but some experts say it is still too early to assess the impact of commercial projects that made global headlines as cargo drones are still of “limited use.”

On the connectivity front, Rwanda has been cited among African countries through which EutelSat communications, an international satellite broad band company plans to enter the African market in the second half of 2017.

The company said, in a press statement recently that it will promote “high quality” broadband at “affordable prices” for homes and businesses.

In local market the satellite broadband company could face stiff competition from Liquid Telecom that is rolling out a fibre optic connection to households in parts of Kigali city.

This year the country will host the “Transform Africa Summit” a high level forum on ICT trends in Africa. The ICT conference that brings together heads of states, business leaders and global tech companies to discuss Africa’s business and digital economy was postponed last year.

The summit will take place in May with a focus on the role of technology in delivering effective, efficient and sustainable urban infrastructure.

E-governance and transportation are some areas that smart technologies are used for socio-economic development. According to organisers, over 300 mayors of cities across Africa are expected to showcase the components of a smart city.